Julian, can you tell us a bit about your background before founding expat-blog.com?
Before founding Expat blog six years ago, I worked as a web developer and marketer in the UK then in Spain for a few years. I went to London right after my studies where I got my first job. I must say that I fell pretty young under the spell of living abroad.I have always been passionate about travel, foreign cultures and web technologies: Expat blog is a perfect blend of all of these!
What prompted you to start expat-blog.com?
In 2005, I was looking for information on the Internet about living abroad and more particularly in UK and in Spain where I lived as an expatriate. I must admit that they were only a few about real life abroad. At that time, blogging was fast-growing. I started a blog and noticed that they were a lot of expatriates’ blogs: I decided to gather all those blogs on a unique platform. Then as Expat blog was developing, we added more features and we are now a community website with more than 250 000 active members.
Expat blog is aimed at expatriates and people willing to live abroad. We offer them a place to find some unique information based on sharing experiences with other expatriates. In fact, for each destination, we offer a mini-portal with:
· an expat blog directory;
· a social network allowing the user to directly contact expatriates anywhere in the world;
· a participative expat guide;
· a classifieds section;
· a shared photo-album;
· a discussion forum;
· a business directory.
Who is it aimed at and what does it offer?
We try to help people at each stage of their expatriation: before the leave, once they arrive, when they have to go back home.
What were the main challenges you faced getting the site off the ground and how did you overcome them?
As I started from scratch, it was kind of hard at the beginning. I was alone to handle everything. I was passionate: I invested a lot of time and energy in making Expat blog a professional activity.
As the website was growing, I had to recruit a team to help me developing it: web developers, moderators. Little by little, we became a real enterprise at the beginning of 2010. I believe handling these challenges was just a matter of time, passion and motivation.
How do feel blogging can benefit expats – both from the perspective of bloggers themselves and those who follow them?
When you are abroad, you need to have a link with your family and friends in your native country. Even if nowadays we have all the modern means of communication, it is sometimes hard to keep in touch with everyone. Blogging enables you to send news to all your relatives at once.
It is also a really practical way of finding information about living abroad. You can share the life of an expat in his new “home” and see all the good moments or difficulties he has to face in real life. It is much more realistic and informative than reading a brochure about the country!
Has expat tweeting on Twitter replaced the traditional expat blog or do they serve different functions?
They are quite different since twitting is more for real time. On a blog, you have much more ways to express yourself, to share your experience. For instance, the traditional blog allows expats to share their pictures, which are quite essential for a good and pleasant blog. They are also essential to illustrate life in the country.
It is quite hard to express all your feelings in only 140 characters. Blogging gives you the opportunity to be more descriptive, to communicate more feelings, more impressions about living abroad. The best blogs are generally the ones in which the author is the most talkative. This is what we notice when we nominate our “Blogs of the month”.
If you had to give some advice on moving abroad to members at Expat Focus – either based on your own experiences or those of expat bloggers – what would it be?
First of all, moving abroad must be a thoughtful decision. You must define clear objectives before initiating your move.
Prepare yourself in advance: the smoother you go, the less stress you would have.
And of course, get some information on the country you head to on the Internet ;). Living abroad is a unique and enriching experience: it can be professionally, culturally or personally. Try to make the most of it!
What are your plans for the future?
Professionally speaking, we would keep improving the services we offer to the expatriates worldwide. Our ambition is to do our best to help expats.
Personally speaking, I am planning to pass all the scuba diving levels !
What do you do to relax?
I am keen on snorkeling and scuba diving. As I am now living in Mauritius, I have the opportunity to do these activities… as often as my work allows me to do it! Helping people in their expatriation project is indeed a 24/7 job, but fortunately, it is a real passion.